Protesters interrupted the Cambridge City Council’s regular meeting at City Hall Monday evening to demand accountability for the Cambridge Police Department officers involved in the police killing of Sayed Faisal last month.
The demonstration lasted for approximately one hour in the Council chamber and subsequently in the hall outside the Council’s offices, while the Council itself met to discuss de-escalation, body cameras, and policing more broadly.
“Mayor Siddiqui, City Manager Huang, and City Council, it has been over a month since Sayed Faisal was murdered by the Cambridge Police Department, and we still don’t have any answers,” a protester shouted during the public comment portion of the meeting.
The demonstration comes two weeks after the protesters’ first display in City Hall. Since Faisal’s killing, demonstrators across Cambridge have repeatedly called on the city to release the involved officers’ names and the unredacted police report. Advocates have also demanded the termination and prosecution of the officers.
Before the protest began, MIT graduate student Hannah M. Flores devoted much of her public comment at the meeting to a moment of silence for “everybody that was killed by the police.”
“It’s a moment of silence because their blood is on your hands,” she said to the Council. “You guys are in actual positions to change something.”
When Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui attempted to stop Flores from continuing on the subject of Faisal’s killing, Flores responded that she was exercising her “right of freedom of speech.”
More than a dozen protesters filed into the chamber as Flores spoke. After a moment of silence, the protesters stood and began to chant “Release the names!” and “No justice, no peace!” from the rear of the chamber.
While the demonstrators shouted, the councilors immediately left the chamber to resume the Council meeting virtually.
The protesters remained for several minutes afterward, and several took turns speaking to an empty chamber at the public comment podium.
Over a Zoom meeting, the Council considered 13 policy orders, one of which would initiate the process of obtaining body-worn cameras for police. The Council voted to adopt this order, with all present members voting in favor except City Councilor Quinton Zondervan, who argued that the cameras are a counterproductive use of funds.
“They buy into the notion that the way we do a lot of policing in the United States, and at Cambridge, is basically okay,” he said in reference to the body cameras. “So what this ends up doing is adding to the police budget, giving them more tools to work with, but ultimately not really resolving the problem that is before us.”
“The problem is the guns, not the body cameras,” Zondervan added.
Other policy orders on the agenda included a request that the police commissioner explore “less-than-lethal” alternatives that the police department can deploy and that the city manager engage a third party to examine the CPD’s methods for de-escalation, as well as mental health response practices.
The demonstrators plan on continuing their protests at every future City Council meeting. Prominent protest figure Suhail P. Purkar said there would be “hundreds of protesters” at the next meeting.
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